tv Conversation With David Ritz CSPAN May 24, 2015 1:00am-1:47am EDT
you said that when you met on june 23 you were discussing the effort then you set the second and at that point is you said once again as an aside his wife worked at the south agency. so that wasn't correct? >> that wasn't correct. >> those references were in parentheses and i had told patrick fitzgerald i used them for two purposes, number one two remember to ask someone i was interviewing a question about information i had already heard, and the second was to take note of something that was interesting that the interviewee was saying that wasn't relevant. so when i saw -- it's in the
lead but let me put it this way. the first reference was to the bureau. that was my question. if scooter libby had leaked the name to me on valerie plane since she worked at the agency he would never have said she was in the bureau. why? because the cia doesn't have bureaus. it has divisions and offices but the state department, which was her cover when she was a cia agent had bureaus into the person who initially told me that she worked at the state department/cia used the word of euro and i remember that only after learning that her cover was a cause patrick fitzgerald knew that information all the time. >> no recollection knowing that
she worked before and now she talked to before. >> there were two conversations and the reference to this is a second. >> even the notes and one reason i wrote this book is i wanted to tell what i now know and have learned about the case and the more i learned about the case the more i thought of as a travesty that had occurred with so much going on in the country at that time. >> final question and then she will be around to autograph books. >> certainly related to the conversation about getting it right or wrong i'm interested
thought that was a very good thing that was in our country's interest and it's worked out well. in fact we have to wait and see what the president comes up with i know at the moment the ayatollah and u.s. congress are not making that effort any easier. but i would just urge you once again we have had many estimates in the cases. i am not persuaded given what i saw that we know much more about iran than we knew about iraq. i hope we do but i'm not actively reporting that right now. >> there's plenty more material in the books of book so we hope you will buy the book and buy it here in support of the wonderful work and politics and prose. thank you all for coming. [applause]
what do you do for a living? >> i am a ghost writer. >> what is a ghost writer? >> a ghost writer is an author who writes in the first person of another person. >> host: how did you get into that business? >> guest: it co it is a long story of the short end of the story i was an advertising guy after college and graduate school.
i was going to meet ray charles and talk him into doing an authorized biography for the pulitzer prize and the nobel prize and i didn't know anything about ghost writing so i had a hard time introducing myself but anyway, i was able to do it. and when i did this agent told me you know, you want to do his autobiography and i said no i don't. he said you do. he said you'll learn a lot he will earn a lot more money if you do a ghost book as a much
larger market for a ray charles book then god biography book. and i still don't want to do it. i want to do a biography and for my own name and then my agent asked me a question. the question was what book would you prefer to actually read? a book written by someone like you or retain in his voice and i said i would prefer to read the book and his voice. and he said then you should write a book you want to read not the one that you be the view should write. so that's that kind of changed everything. then i discovered that there was a kind of musicality in his voice because as you know we
learned to speak before we learn to think and then it occurred to me if i kind of creative's voice create his voice on the page in other words when i attend i in him then i will be sort of making music and there isn't anything i would rather do than make music. in doing his voice i discovered i have a gift for it and i am not sure what it is but it's something about the approximation of a voice because as you know if you just do a transcription in other words if they are just kind us to be transcribed that isn't a good
representation because one thing i learned early on is the eye hears much differently than a year so when you try to create a literary voice, it is an artistic act. you are creating the impression that this person is talking to you in a conversational way so in order to do that you have to move from political transcription to i don't know exactly what to call it but giving the person a literary voice, and that as i said is art
it's not clear cold as when i began to do it i presumed it was. >> host: did you have any connection to ray charles or any connection to writing? >> guest: i had written in high school academic essays and journalism. i have done a lot of writing. so i was comfortable with the act, but not this act of being a ghost. i was new. i went to college and majored in english and i went to graduate school but all that training didn't prepare me for being a ghost writer. i had never contemplated it. the only two books that i really had were one what was the autobiography of billie holliday
lady sings the blues and i knew that was written by a ghost writer because when i was about 12 or 13 and a hat half on the cover as told to william and i remember asking my father who is this guy and he said he probably wrote the book and i said no it was written by billie holiday because it's all in her voice and she's talking to you and i remember my father told me that's what he does for her come he's giving you the idea that she's writing the book. then i remembered asking does he get to go over to billie holiday's house and my father said i presume he does and then i remembered i said that's the job i want and that's the job i
have a. >> host: . >> of their im at the cover. >> did you appear on the cover -- >> guest: my name has always appeared on the cover. in the beginning it was important for me that my name was a certain because i haven't got over this idea that host writers are looked at as something of a subcategory. and it took me a long time just to be comfortable with that.
>> host: another look with just your name on it. >> guest: in 1995 i met aretha franklin after chasing her for years. i had done this book with ray charles and the next book i wanted to do was aretha because i loved her music as passionately as the music of ray charles and she wasn't interested as a typical of me i would kind of chase after artists and call them until i can get a meeting and hopefully get them to hire me. in her case i did. in the mid-1950s and in the mid-19 '90s she hired me to ghost write her autobiography that this was an instance where
i didn't deliver the kind of book i really wanted to. i had a hard time gaining any emotional intimacy with her and i didn't get her to reveal my tv covering much about her life. so the book came out and i wasn't happy with the book so i took about 14 years and continued my research on her. and in october of 2014 i put out my own biography that i call respect because i didn't feel i had honored her art or complexity is of her stories enough in doing her autobiography that i don't expect to do that again anytime soon. in other words the books i've done on a ray charles or bb king or smokey robinson they are not
perfect books, but i feel from a historical point of view if you want to get to know these people and hear them talking to you and telling their stories, then the books i've done with them are accurate and good and filled with soul and heart but in this case i just felt as though he owed it to her in history to do my own version. >> host: when you make an arrangement first is there a nondisclosure agreement? can you be censored by the main author?
>> guest: yes and i'm glad you asked me that because that's one of the most interesting things about my book. i give away all control. i remember once i was at a conference in austin on a panel of biographers and this biographer said richard shouldn't even be here because he is a ghost writer and that's not a biographer. one of the reasons i can't trust his book is because he has no editorial control over the content and i have to agree with him. i didn't agree with him that i shouldn't be on the panel and i have to point out to him that the holy bible is a ghost written book and we don't know who the author of that is and there are other excellent post for ten bucks, the autobiography of malcolm x. is looked at as a
classic, but going back to the point of control one of the points i made is that when you give control of a cube gets gets more control because it isn't on the table as a point of contention. so knowing that he or she has the ultimate editorial content can relax and you are able to gain more intimacy that way and usually at the end of the process i have gained enough of the trust of the star that i can pretty much control the content of the book. there are other times they don't want this or that but generally
i think the biggest addiction of all his control and anytime i can give away control i i'm a happier person and i think i work with greater integrity and greater empathy because what ghost writing is really all about is empathy and compassion because in order to get people to open up their hearts and tell you what's happened in their lives, their conflict, they have to feel as though you are not judging demand you love them on a certain level. if i've done well and i think i have come its because i've been able to open up my heart with
the people that i've worked with and establish this kind of report i'm a s-sierra good circuit for the person that reads the book. many people would like to be in my position and get to hang out with ray charles or willie nelson for days or weeks at a time and hang out at the kitchen table and hear him tell stories so i know they are just not for me, for all those untold numbers of people who want to gain access to these people. >> one of the other challenges it's interesting i its interesting i was just at a conference over the weekend, a music conference and in seattle a person asked me what do you think the purpose -- what is your purpose as a writer and i
said i have two of them, one is to avoid a nervous breakdown and the other one is to make a living. and the two tied together because if you noticed you can't make a living, and if you are making a living you can't have a nervous breakdown so for me as a freelance writer for the last 40 some years, it's been important to make a living and not go back to. ghost writing has been a a great way for me to keep my head above the water from a financial point of view because there's a built-in market for stars, they
have an audience and also they come to you with a story. you know i've written biographies and novels and essays. i've written lots of stuff but i keep my concentration on ghost writing a and i'm a commercial writer at heart. i want people to read my books and have a large audience and i'm conscious of that and that's partially because because they come out of the advertising business. i learned to write ads and copies so i think once a copywriter, always a copywriter.
but as i said before, the surprise for me i gave up advertising because it was too easy and the creative challenge was gone. i've been ghost writing for maybe 41 years and i'm still challenged because it's horrid and you don't sort of ever get it right into the idea for you to ask me to ghost write your book, i would have to get to know you and get a good kind of feeling for how. and they might pull it off and they might not. even beyond the sort of mechanics there's also will i be a good enough psychologist to get you to open up will i give
you enough space which i haven't been able to do in this interview because i've been talking all the time. >> what if you agreed to write the book and i said i don't want your name on it? >> guest: that has happened a couple times. i think i would like to be a person that could answer the un to you and tell you i wouldn't care. that would be a more chilled out version of me. however if i would go nuts and
you wouldn't be able to talk to me. because in order to be a good ghost writer you have to deal with your ego and submerge. it can't just have what it wants because like i told you in the original story to win the nobel prize isn't going to happen in an autobiography. i think god that being a ghost writer because i wanted to earn money and get more gigs i've
trained myself to tend to the sort of event that my ego. to go back to your question if you let me do my book my answer might be good but give me another $80000. every book is a different sort of negotiation. there are no rules. your agent usually negotiate with the stars of manager. but every book is different.
host for somebody else you've written with you've written a couple of books with him. this is number three and we are working on number four. the publisher at the time had him under contract for an autobiography and i had just written a book for steve who was big in the music business, he was present with columbia records. in any event, he thought that we would be a good combination so
he put us together and i rode with him his autobiography and then last year he and i did a book together about martin luther king and recently we worked together on this book with my angelou about his relationship, but he's the idea collaborators because he appreciates what i do and shows me great respect and also i love how he speaks and i love his voice. he is a good storyteller so it's been a great combination. >> host: is the ghost writing business a pretty big business that we don't necessarily know about? >> guest: the one area we haven't talked about is deep
ghost which means you don't have your name on it you touched upon it earlier, but it is a person who has ghost written a book to the grief of politicians who use a deep ghost because they want to give the idea that they actually grew up with the buck and i don't know. i haven't done a survey on it but i don't know whether they are in majority returned by politics but a large number of books are written by politicians, so yes it's -- i will tell you one arresting story about that. i was on an airplane going to the conference and i was next to the guy that is well known. i don't want to hurt his name
because i don't want to have hurt feelings. he tested and decided that's interesting. he asked me what books i've done and the only problem is, he's had, i don't have a lot of respect for a person who wants to write his life story and doesn't do it by himself and i turned to him and i said why? you can have a great story but not have the jobs to be able to tell it and just because you don't have a job to write it doesn't mean the world should still enjoy it. not everybody knows how.
i think there will always be the need for ghosts. there will always be people with compelling stories to tell. so i hope to do it until i can't do any more. >> what is your connection? >> guest:. he was another guy that chased after because i wanted to do his autobiography. i have been listening to him talk about this in 1979 he put out a.
this will be an autobiographical treatment. critics pander to and i loved it and i wrote a letter to "the new york times" praising and arguing hopefully he would read the letter. he did and he called me. we began working on his book. at the time he wasn't in great shape and he went to hawaii and england and he wound up in europe. it was my way of trying to help
him understand. it was a day to hate back in the united states but he was murdered in 1984 before he and i have a chance to complete his autobiography. i wrote that divided the soul which was my biography for him. i would have much preferred to have done this on a biography that i couldn't. he wasn't there to approve. so it is full of the
the answer is yes. >> host: do you still make money off of that? >> guest: it's been an incredible international hit that help put my kids through college and its been amazing how popular that song has been and it's one of the proudest accomplishments for me because the idea that they would get to work with burgundy and that i would get to help put together a song going through his mind, and he also liked to have this and he appreciated me. when he saw a letter or a talent
he would read the bible and so forth. he was encouraging and full of praise for others. >> host: that seems like you have worked with a the love of african-american ghost writing. >> guest: i love the african-american culture and the music and its what i listen to all day long since i was eight 9-years-old. part of my motivation is that i'm drawn to the music but then to the musicians so i can understand what you try and spend a [inaudible]
i kind of used to the music. >> host: i was born jewish in a fine 71-years-old and became a christian since 2005. it's interesting because you ask me about african-american music and i was also drawn to the african-american church. i remember going to african-american churches and everyone seemed to be not having a good time that there was something happening that seemed
important and rich and warm and loving and encouraging but i always have my nose pressed against the glass and then 60 70-years-old and i made up my mind i think i will go in. so i am getting the kind of nurturing i always wanted to have. music journey into the church, it wasn't a theology of the theology of the whole another subject but the love and positive energy and acceptance of others that i hear a in the
excitement and the kind of nurturing a bad idea and is holy and one interesting thing about aretha franklin is in this book i wrote respect. one of the reasons that she is as great as she is she had a the well known the father and one of the things he taught her is that it's not -- there is one god and he went against the tradition of the time saying you can't think possible and sing gospel. i believe you can listen and be
as prayerful. >> host: nondisclosure agreements. are there things you would like to put into willie nelson book that you've signed an agreement saying i can't put that in here or talk about? >> guest: i didn't have a nondisclosure agreement. if they have editorial control so they can cut out what they want to cut out. maybe that he is nondisclosure but in other words i didn't sign a piece of people paper that has a list of what he told me not to tell. in the case of willie nelson he did basically tell everything but he is a generous guy and he
didn't throw anyone under the bus. that whole issue of nondisclosure and censorship has never been an impediment to my work other than the case there is more to the story. >> host: has your starter ben and impediment? >> guest: it's interesting that you mention it. the music critic recently did an overview of the book and he did an overview of my career. it was a generous article but in
it he thought my starter helped me to gain the empathy of people i talked to and because as a starter i appear to be more sympathetic and that in his view my speech impediment has helped me as a ghost writer and he might be right. i've struggled with my whole life. if you could take a pill and make your starter go away i probably would but it's me and
the great thing is you do have to overcome it and agree to have an interview on national tv and no n/a going to starter and it doesn't look too good or sound good. it is an emotional obstacles and the other thing is that it is an honest representation of my mood at any given time. in other words with you in this interview i have stuttered much less than i normally do because you have made me comfortable.